The Gist: http://restaurantlemeac.com/
The Why: After La Chronique the prior day for some rather formal French fare it seemed only logical to try a more casual Canadian take on the French Bistro for day number two. Having considered L’Express at first but finding their lunch menu to be rather boring I turned my attention to LeMeac based on the recommendation of a friend and quickly realized the menu to be quite the opposite. Located conveniently and cleared by my mother and aunt as a place they’d enjoy it seemed a perfect fit.
The Reservation: None made, none needed as we had planned to and did arrive moments after they opened the door – as a matter of fact, we were the first people to arrive although the space would fill quickly thereafter reaching near capacity by noon.
The Space: A large space with stone floors, a long wooden bar, and white tablecloths the team who designed LeMeac did an excellent job of recreating the French Bistro experience and with a coat check up front, old movie posters in the back, and large windows flooding the room with light while fresh flowers softened the dark woods ever so slightly the room was effortlessly comfortable; the sort of place where both a business lunch and a romantic dinner would fit equally well.
The Service: Seemingly an all-female staff save for the bartender LeMeac ran like a well-oiled machine despite the lunch time bustle and being the only primarily English table in the room we were gifted both English menus and a server whose command of the language was not only excellent, but lovely with her thick French accent and the occasional “eh?” enchanting enough that she could have sold me some beachfront property just outside the front door…or, if not that, at least $50 worth of Bistro fare plus a glass of wine.
The Food: 3 Courses ALC, One Side, Coffee, Bread Service, and a glass of Ice Wine
Warm bread, salted butter: Admittedly the sort of person who is quick to judge my first thoughts about LeMeac were tempered by the butter – literally just kitchen butter cut off a stick and dropped, cold, in a dish. With an excellent house made baguette with good crunch and better chew I’d have been much happier to see better quality butter. Thankfully this would be my only gripe of the meal.
Cream of Mushroom Soup, Truffle oil, Creme Fraiche, Raw Mushrooms: A daily special, ordered by both my mother and my aunt, this aromatic potage was a highlight in a meal that frequently wowed as the rich soup was not overly pureed and thus maintained a bit of texture that played nicely against the tang of the crème. Kissed with a top note of truffle and with slices of raw criminis tossed in for more texture this was where the bread really shined and both bowls returned to the kitchen spotless.
Duck Foie Gras Au Torchon, Grilled Brioche, Peppered Pineapple: As much as I like dressed up foie gras preparations there is nothing quite like a nice naked torchon from a high quality bird and at LeMeac the Quebecoise product shined with a slight mineral undertone coursing through the smooth liver and beautifully cut by sea salt and fruit. Served with only one brioche roll, split and grilled, my request for two more was granted without question, the smooth liver melting on the heated bread before melting on my tongue.
Crab Cake, gribiche sauce and cucumbers with peppers (plus a side of matchstick potatoes): While I cannot explain my aunt’s obsession with ordering crab cakes in even the most unlikely places this was actually a very good preparation from the restaurant’s appetizer section and certainly large enough to suffice as a main course considering our day’s agenda. Dense yet fluffy and sweet with just a bit of spice the cake was low on both filler and frying oil while the salad of thinly sliced cucumbers was a great counterpoint. Personally skipping the gribiche and the large serving of crisp potatoes I cannot comment on either, but my aunt seemed to enjoy the former while the later was met with a luke-warm response.
Panko crusted goat cheese, apple and walnut salad: Another appetizer for main course selection, my mother too went with a lightly fried option and as good as the crabcake was, this creamy puck of chevre was even better as it was warm but not gooey throughout and equally good spread on bread or taken with the salad and nuts.
Duck leg confit, roasted fingerling potatoes and salad: Rustic as can be with perfect crunchy skin overlying supple flesh from just down the road at Mariposa Farm there really is not much more to be said about this confit; it was textbook and every bit as good as the oft raved version at Chez Dumonet in Paris…and as a matter of fact, my appetizer/main sequence at both restaurants were identical and all things being equal I’d be hard pressed to decide which I preferred.
Lemon Curd Tartlette with lime coulis: Moving on to dessert, this was clearly my mother’s choice and with the citrus nicely smoothed out by the sugar and egg yolks this creamy tart was quite nice, the sort of thing served at any number of Parisian bistros and nicely encircled by a rich butter crust.
Banana and Date Sticky Toffee Pudding, Vanilla Ice Cream: The next dessert, my own selection, would prove to be the richest of the trio and with a dense cake of steamed pudding centered in a puddle of caramel sauce it was also one of the sweetest desserts I have ever tasted with the fructose notes of both the dates and the banana coming through with aplomb and only partially tempered by the rich ice cream; definitely a dessert to order with coffee and a few other people to share.
French Toast, Milk Jam Ice Cream, Maple Caramel: They say a picture is worth a thousand words and in this case it is probably also worth a thousand or more calories – simply stated, if you go to LeMeac you must order this. Impossibly light despite the enormous portion, piping hot only to be cooled and saturated by an ice cream harkening the flavors of condensed milk, and more than enough to satisfy a group…a signature dessert to be sure.
The Verdict: A French bistro hitting the same highs as many of the best in Paris there really is not much else to be said about LeMeac; from the menu to the service to the execution of the food everything was on point and although perhaps not the most unique meal of the trip certainly one of the most enjoyable, particularly for someone who measures the quality of his French cuisine by foie, duck, and pastry.